Justice Gone

November 9, 2019 at 4:27 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Justice and police dramas have been hot topics for what seems to be my entire life. From Law and Order being popular on television, to John Grisham being all the rage for most of my adolescence; and now, in my adulthood, police brutality and Blue Lives Matter is constantly on the news. So it’s not surprising that a crime novel about the judicial system and police murders would win awards.

N. Lombardi Jr. is the author of Justice Gone, a courtroom thriller published on February 22, 2019 (which just so happens to be mine and George Washington’s birthday). After some googling, I discovered that Lombardi “has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, working as a groundwater geologist. Nick can speak five languages: Swahili, Thai, Lao, Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian).” (Noveldelights.com)

Within mere months of publication, Justice Gone had already won three awards:

  • National Indie Excellency Award
  • American Fiction Awards
  • Silver Medal Winner, Readers’ Favorite

And most recently added the New York City Big Book Award to its lengthy honors.

That’s pretty impressive. And reading the book, it’s obvious why Justice Gone has received so much attention. Lombardi has tackled the genre with the same fast-paced finesse that intrigued readers all over the world in 1989 with A Time to Kill.

The first in what will possibly be a series featuring the character Dr. Tessa Thorpe, Justice Gone reminded me a bit of Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley books, primarily regarding my stress level while reading. Books like this are emotionally intense, and must be tackled in the right mood for someone like me who has moved on from voraciously reading the bloody suspense of Nelson Demille (between the ages of 12 to 22) to cozy mysteries featuring crochet, coffee, and craft shops at the ripe old age of 35 (complete with fuzzy socks and glasses sliding down my nose).

Justice Gone would be excellent fodder for a feisty book club: homelessness issues, the criminal justice system, thoughts on PTSD, even addiction and recovery methods… there are so many rabbit trails of heated debates waiting to happen. Have the wine ready and let the rabid discussions begin!

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October Reads

October 31, 2019 at 4:40 am (Diffuse And Read, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

We’ve had quite the month, here at the Whims House, and I’m pleased with our progress – both recreationally and educationally.

The Lost for Words Bookshop – Stephanie Butland

I will always pick up books about bookstores. This one was especially wonderful for me, as the main character made it impossible for me not to imagine one of my favorite humans in the world while reading it – even if they are definitely drastically human beings. Butland did a great job writing believable characters with all the fantastical coziness of the perfect bookstore and the sensational backdrop of an imperfect past. I enjoyed the unfolding of all the story layers.

Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis

Kiddo has had a lot of tough questions lately regarding life, the universe, and everything. So–naturally–I consulted the best of the best: C. S. Lewis. He is my go-to for finding the words to explain all the hard questions and bible verses that I don’t know how to address.

Tepui: The Last Expedition – John Oehler

John Oehler has a new book out: Ex-Libris. I had already read Tepui, but I wanted to re-read it before I jumped into his newest novel because I read Tepui at a not-so-great time in life and failed to write a proper review for this author I love. I’ll be reading Ex-Libris before Thanksgiving. I highly recommend anything Oehler puts out, feel free to join me for an Ex-Libris read along.

The Romance of Tristan and Iseult – M. Joseph Bedier

Tristan and Iseult – Rosemary Sutcliff

As a homeschool mom, I find it important to go back to the classics as much as I can. So while I read Sutcliff’s version out loud to the kiddo, I made sure I read Bedier’s to myself. (Read my blog post here.)

The Sea of Monsters – Rick Riordan

It took us longer than expected to get through the first two Percy Jackson books, but don’t let that dissuade you from understanding how hooked we are. We’re just spread thin and don’t have as much time as we’d like to have. We’ll spend November reading Titan’s Curse.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

I loved this book. I wasn’t expecting to love it, contemporary fiction pieces with Reese Witherspoon’s name stamped all over them aren’t typically the kind of books that call my name. Eleanor Oliphant, however, is a true gem, and I love her dearly–like an old friend.

Morningstar: Growing Up With Books – Ann Hood

Ann Hood books have been cropping up everywhere, for me. Until one day I glanced at a pile and realized I had a nice little collection of freebies and clearance purchases all by the same woman. It intrigued me, seeing this little pile, realizing I knew nothing about her. So I started with The Obituary Writer and began adding her books to my monthly TBR pile, with every intention of reading everything she has in publication by the end of 2020.

Gaspara Stampa Selected Poems

As a classical homeschool mom, we do things in chronological order through history, lining up our biographies, literature, historical fiction pieces, and science… then repeating the cycle. This is the third time we’ve read Gaspara poems sporadically and we finally finished our collection. We’ll start the book all over again in a few years, and maybe one day we’ll know a few of our favorites by heart.

The Bookshop on the Corner – Jenny Colgan

Sucker for a bookshop book! This one was pretty cute, and I’ll probably pick up more books of Colgan’s in the future.

The Ordinary Princess – M. M. Kaye

I loved re-reading this old favorite with my kiddo! We set up the diffusers with lovely fall combinations while we cozied up to the story of Princess Amy.

The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World – Abigail Tucker

Abigail Tucker’s journalism is riveting! I don’t even like cats (I’m allergic) and this book kept me enthralled from beginning to end. I highly recommend this for any animal lover, especially if you find yourself wondering why there are so many feral cats creeping along your fence line.

The Story of Doctor Dolittle – Hugh Lofting

There’s a new movie coming out… I’m beside myself with glee and started introducing this glorious serious to the kiddo. We’re trying to read through at least six of the twelve before January.

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo – Tom Reiss

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

I read these two books as a pair. Education is a Lifetime Pursuit, which means that I try to make sure to study new topics (and re-study old topics) right along side my kiddo. I though it would take me longer to read these, and was preparing myself for a long winter session in the French Revolution. I hadn’t read Dumas since I was a kid, he’s a much speedier read as an adult; Reiss’s biography of Dumas’s father blew me away and I plan on using this for high school level required reading when kiddo gets to that point.

The House on Tradd Street – Karen White

This series is a new favorite. I binge read this book in a day after it lurking on my dresser top for years, a chapter from the end I ordered the next in the series. Can’t wait.

The Chronicles of the Awakening – Jeremiah Salyer

I purchased this off an acquaintance in an online Facebook group. I love supporting other authors and sharing work. This wasn’t my cup of tea though. It’s sort of meta-fantasy, and I know a LOT of people like that, but it has to be pretty mind blowing for me to get into that genre. I like my fantasy with more magic and dragons. I’m just not this author’s target audience, but others who read this blog might be…

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A Writing Circle Book Club

September 4, 2019 at 4:56 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Years ago, I read a book about a writer’s circle. I was intrigued by it and I wrote a review: https://anakalianwhims.wordpress.com/2015/12/11/the-writing-circle/. I believe at the time I joined a Facebook group of writers I knew and we cheered each other on with word count posts and other such encouragements from the depths of cyberspace. I thanked them in the acknowledgements of one of my novels. They were great, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate their friendship and efforts — but it wasn’t a true writer’s group. Or at least not the one I imagine in my head.

I have never sat in a group with prepared writing and exchanged critiques that wasn’t an awkward pairing off in an English course over the literary merits of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Until this month.

Well, it’s just two of us. And we’ve only met once. It’s almost a bit more like a book club of people who write, maybe. But it spurred me on creatively and I’m very excited about it.

For our first meeting, we read Lost Among the Living as homework. The idea is to implement the concept Stephen King talks about in On Writing about having tools in your tool box. I write The Bookshop Hotel series, small town cozy with occasional mysterious interludes (also occasional funny and possibly more than occasional angst). My friend wants to write thrillers. Simone St. James writes somewhere in between, and creatively speaking, she added a few more tools to both our boxes.

Simone St. James nails plot points and pacing, something I tend to grasp and flail at. I typically tell people my books naturally flow like a French film where nothing much happens until my editors say, “Hey, you need a plot point here.” Even my grandmother keeps telling me to put a rat in the store or kill someone off. I have obediently placed “easter egg” mice throughout the story. I enjoyed Lost Among the Living more than I expected to, having chosen in for the purpose of reading it with others and gotten it for next to nothing, rather than for myself alone. It’s not something I would have picked up full price at Barnes & Noble prior to reading one of her titles. As soon as I was through, however, I ordered another of her books on Amazon to be delivered to my kindle. I plan to read it as soon as a cool front comes in. I think her books may best be devoured in front of the fire place.

In the meantime, I am halfway through writing the next two books in my series. If all goes well, I will be sending an anthology of shorts and a full length novel to my publisher in the next three months. I look forward to more “writing circle” meetings and what I can learn and share in them.

If you are a writer, what have been your favorite “tool box” books? (Top of my list is Madeleine L’engle’s Crosswick Journals.)

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The Most Biased Book Review Ever

August 27, 2019 at 2:16 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Title: The Lost Legends

Editor: Adam D. Jones

Today is the day you can buy a physical copy of a book (to be two-day delivered via Amazon to your home) in which the woman I call “the other half of my brain” has written a short-story.

Once upon a time, in college, I had a roommate. I actually had several roommates over the years, but this one is THE Roommate. We shared a dorm. We co-existed. We got a townhouse together, and co-existed some more. We co-existed so well, that fifteen years later, married and with children living in separate cities, we still call each other for morning coffee almost every day. We homeschool our children “together,” planning out the best curriculums and deciphering educational theory by phone. We manage a homeschool Facebook page together, previously referred to as Klemm University, but renamed for our mutual interests as Lovelace Classical Academy (if Facebook will ever allow us to update it, that would be wonderful). But I digress… the point is: She is the other half of my brain. And since we first met, we both knew we wanted to be writers. More than that, we both knew we were writers who simply hadn’t been published yet.

She has lamented and rejoiced with me through every major life event… and now, it’s my turn:

E. S. MURILLO IS A PUBLISHED AUTHOR!

as a contributor to The Lost Legends anthology, edited by Adam D. Jones and Renea McKenzie (more college friends of mine).

This anthology is fun for any fantasy reader, I honestly believe that. The stories are well crafted, edited properly (a huge feat in the indie-publishing world for debut work), and fun. Obviously, An Inconsequential Miscalculation is my favorite, as – by sharing a brain – I was able to see the story as it was meant to be told from its very first incarnation and have had the pleasure of reading it in most of its versions. Reading it in its completed form brings me sheer joy.

Mostly high fantasy, there are a few writers in the mix who are downright funny, the future Terry Pratchetts to the future J.R.R. Tolkiens (My favorite stories are the funny ones)… the anthology has a wide variety of tales, but flows seamlessly as an anthology, which is generally hard to do.

I am exceptionally proud of my friends and would love if all of my fantasy reading followers checked this book out for themselves – you will not be disappointed in it.

Click to order:

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Diminutive Books I Have Loved

August 19, 2019 at 4:20 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Once upon a time…

I was on a book hunting excursion at the Recycled Bookstore in Denton, Texas. That night I purchased and read a book by Paul Collins called Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books. I loved every minute of it and proceeded to hunt down everything the man had ever written. When pressed, I will tell people this is my *favorite* book. As a book lover, it hurts me to choose just one, so I must admit I don’t even know if this is an accurate proclamation. But it is the one I claim.

Later, I would get a job at Half Price Books and not only re-read this gem, but purchase any copies that came into the store. I’ve given several copies away, I think I own a few still, the one I will always keep is the polypropylene covered first edition I bought in Denton. Of all the parts of the book, one quote regarding dust jackets and marketing is the one that has always stuck with me, it’s something I have even told other booksellers when training them:

“Woe and alas to any who transgresses these laws. A number of reviewers railed against ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ because it used the diminutive hardcover size and muted color scheme of, say, an Annie Dillard book–thus cruelly tricking readers of Serious Literature into *buying crap*. Not to be outdone, the Harvard University Press issued Walter Benjamin’s opus ‘The Arcades Project’ with gigantic raised metallic lettering. One can only imagine the disgust of blowhard fiftysomethings in bomber jackets as they slowly realised that the project they were reading about was a cultural analysis of 19th century Parisian bourgeoisie–and not, say, a tale involving renegade Russian scientists and a mad general aboard a nuclear submarine.” 

I am a sucker for diminutively sized hardback books with matte finished covers, especially if they are about books or nature. Case and Point: the hardback edition of Sixpence House is 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches in size. It isn’t small per se, but it is definitely smaller than your typical contemporary New York Times bestselling fiction, like Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, for instance, which is 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches. Or, if your flavor is more sci-fi/fantasy, Brandon Sanderson’s Way of Kings hardcover stands at 6.4 x 2 x 9.6 inches. 8.6 inches to 9.6 inches is a meaningful jump in the publishing world. It tells you something about what is lurking inside those beautiful, beautiful pages.

Imagine how much more significant a leap from 9.6 inches down to 7.3 inches, which is the height of the hardcover edition of The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. I plucked this book up sometime before I separated from my ex-husband. I read it just a month before I finally said enough was enough. I remember reading it and craving the calm of being bedridden and having nothing to do except think and watch a snail creep around the house. I was aware that it was probably ridiculously unhealthy – to crave someone else’s pain, but I was very much exhausted of my own. Much relief comes from evicting an abusive drunk from your home, but before you’re free it’s nice to find comfort in books like this one. I’d like to re-read it again, and soon, so I can appreciate it more fully for what it is rather than using it to hide from what it isn’t.

I’m in a good place now, much healing has occurred over the last few years, but I still occasionally crave tiny and textured books. Keeping an eye out for calming and similar reading experiences, and knowing what I know about book covers, imagine my glee when I discovered Grayson by Lynne Cox.

One of the most lovely qualities of such books is that they can be read in one sitting by nearly any audience, but they rarely talk down to the reader and are often articulate and well-researched. These are the books written by amateur observers – remember the Latin root for amateur is amo, “I love.” An amateur is not someone who is less competent, as the connotation has evolved, but someone who has learned something for the sheer passion of it. They didn’t study for a grade, they aren’t necessarily doing it for their job, instead it is their passionate hobby. It is what they pursue at the end of the day when their bones are tired and their eyelids weak.

Lynne Cox loved to swim in the ocean. She swam every day for miles. I read about her swimming habits and am in awe. Several times I looked at my fiancé and said, “I would have drowned.” I definitely would have probably choked on the grunion when it slithered into my mouth, and then drowned. But Lynne Cox didn’t drown the day a baby whale found her during her morning swim. In fact, she swam and tread water for hours so she could help him find his mama. She didn’t go back to shore when her lungs were burning and her body freezing, because he would have beached himself and died. Lynne Cox loves the open water and the beach and you can experience how deep this love goes when you read about just one morning of her whole life. So much quality is packed into 150 pages: quality time (my love language), quality writing, rich and genuine details about sea creatures off the coast of California. I loved every second of this darling book and I’m grateful Cox chose to share it with the world.

This experience, to me, defines the genre of diminutive books. They aren’t separated out in any particular way in any bookstore I’ve ever patronized (again, I’m using the less commonly used definition here: “frequently shop”), but they definitely reside in the same file folder in my brain… and yes, my brain is actually a series of files and folders (and boxes and “gently raining post-it notes”) I spend hours sorting through. The books, and an assortment of others, all belong in the same place in my mind – not just belong in the same place, but belong to each other, I think.

Each one is a small nod of knowing to another, whether they are aware of it or not, guiding people ever so tenderly down a cobblestone path lit by fireflies and dreams…

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Gilgamesh

July 26, 2019 at 4:47 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

If you’re studying ancient history in chronological order, sometime after you’ve read the Book of Genesis, it’s really fun to dive into Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh is an epic poem most kids have to read in high school or early college for literature classes, originally written in Akkadian. It’s a mythological adventure about a real Sumerian king documented in history, who, like many kings of old, became a legend passed down through the ages, the truth of his life distorted and lost to deification.

Ludmilla Zeman has a fantastic children’s picture book trilogy that I find to be the best starting point for learning about Gilgamesh. It is consistent with most translations and full of beautiful illustrations. When kiddo was small and we were studying ancient history the first time around, we checked these out from the library over and over again. She loved them. This time I bought them, brand new. They’re worth every penny.

I picked up used copies of the epic for myself. I was disappointed to discover that every translation available was a translation of a translation. I know its ignorant to expect to read direct translations of the Old Babylonian tablets when you pick up a Penguin trade paperback, but I did. I went back to the store after reading through David Ferry’s pretty version and N.K. Sandar’s better translation, looking for something closer to Andrew George’s 2003 version – or better yet, George Smith’s 1870’s version! To no avail. Everyone wants new and better more modern ways to tell the tale, while I bemoan my inability to read archaic clay tablets I’d never get my hands on anyway.

I was hoping to find a cool cartoon on the tale for us to watch together, desiring a repeat of the experience we had when we studied Beowulf in 2016 (YouTube had an amazing cartoon rendition of Beowulf featuring the voice of Joseph Fiennes at the time…). All I found were some not so kid friendly “cliff notes” style videos of people walking students through what it was all about so they wouldn’t have to read the book themselves.

Attention all animators: Please provide a kid appropriate Gilgamesh cartoon, featuring an oddly famous actor of the 90’s of my choice. Thanks.

Gilgamesh is neat. I love the beautiful picture books we own. I will be the parent that makes sure she reads poem and doesn’t watch internet video summaries when she’s older. But I’m not in love with it the way I am with The Iliad and Beowulf. I think it may be the insincerity of it all. It feels obvious that it was a legend born of puffing up the ego of a king and his people. It takes Noah’s ark and twists it, I love reading confirmation that many regions of the world had a major flood, I’m saddened when the details are distorted and inconsistent, making heroes of those who weren’t and forgetting the one man who did obey.

Maybe I’ll love it when I finally get my hands on one of the George translations…

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American History With a 2nd Grader

June 14, 2019 at 6:37 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It has actually impressed me how much wonderful American History literature is available for children. Jean Fritz, who has a fantastic book for everything, is my first go to. We read the biography of Pocahontas nearly two years ago, and then moved on through time to other great biographies like Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? I desire to own everything Jean Fritz has ever written eventually. But I already knew I loved Jean Fritz when I started homeschooling. Jean Fritz is known. Some authors or books I didn’t previously know, however, and they have brought us much joy.

Ann Malaspina has an excellent picture book on Phillis Wheatley and George Washington. (We actually read a lot about Phillis Wheatley this year, and were enamored with every mention of her in other books and shows.) We also enjoyed Ann McGovern’s The Secret Soldier: The Story of Deborah Sampson. Avi’s Captain Grey intrigued us completely and opened up a lot of doors for discussions regarding moral dilemmas, trust, and relationships between adults and children.

We absolutely loved Becky Landers: Frontier Warrior by Skinner. It took us a long time to read it out loud, but it was worth every page. I think it’s important for kids to really experience a time period through literature, not just memorize the facts and move on. The stories are what helps my kiddo remember the facts she memorizes, and there are so many good stories!

During this time, which took up the entire summer going into her second grade school year, we also read Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry. Several years ago I was sent a recommendation for a unit study on horses put out by Beautiful Feet. I have all the books in their package, but instead of tackling it like a unit study, it has been an underlying theme in all her studies. She’s in her fourth year of horseback riding, so the undercurrent of equestrian education is something I hope she looks back on with fondness.

If you are into lists, these are the books we read next and loved:

Davy Crockett – George Sullivan

What Was the Alamo? – Meg Belviso

Poli: A Mexican Boy in Early Texas – Jay Neugeboren

The Ballad of Lucy Whipple – Karen Cushman

The Moon of the Gray Wolves – Jean Craighead George

The Moon of the Fox Pups – Jean Craighead George

Sing Down the Moon – Scott O’dell

Harriet Tubman – Sawyer, DK Biographies

A Ballad of the Civil War – Mary Stolz

In a few years, we’ll have the pleasure of repeating this point in history, and there are so many more books I can’t wait to read with my kid, especially for the Civil War era. This year we focused more on biographies, we also read non-American ones like Florence Nightingale. Perhaps, next time we’ll read deeper into the wars. For second grade I tried to focus on the importance of moral goodness and fighting for what’s right while I hedged around the gory details.

We thoroughly enjoyed watching the cartoon Liberty’s Kids, and I’ve got quite the little patriot on my hands. I’d appreciate any recommendations in the comments for books that encourage honor and respect for ones nation while also discerning its flaws. Because we study using a classical model, all of history gets repeated in cycles, chronologically, so there is plenty of time to line up our reading lists for the future.

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Captains Courageous

May 23, 2019 at 3:44 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Title: Captains Courageous

Author: Rudyard Kipling

Length: 129 pages

Almost everyone hears the name Kipling and immediately thinks of The Jungle Books, myself included. I read all of The Jungle Books as a child, watched the various movie adaptations, and continue to enjoy them as new ones continue to be made. However, I honestly cannot recall if I had Captains Courageous as a child. I think I did, but the idea is so vague in my mind I cannot trust it.

So I read it as a 34 year old, just to make sure, joining the adventures of the overly privileged fifteen year old Harvey Cheyne as he grows into something that resembles a responsible man, denying his previous existence as a turd.

Published in 1897, it is full of nautical adventure, Victorian era Americanism, and all the qualities that Teddy Roosevelt would applaud – and he did applaud the book, vigorously.

Captains Courageous is a commonly overlooked classic. I can say this with authority having worked in a bookstore for 12 years being able to count on my right hand the number of times I’ve sold a copy. There are some books I’d run out of fingers in one day, so to get through 12 years with one hand tells me its rather neglected. Don’t be that reader, don’t neglect Captains Courageous. It’s too good to be forgotten.

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Cozy 2018 Summer

May 11, 2019 at 4:04 am (Art, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

No, I did not type the date wrong. I took a very long break from consistently reviewing books and blogging, and now I have returned. I’m easing myself back into the practice by logging all the titles my blog missed each Thursday until I am caught up. So welcome to Throwback Thursday (or Flashback Friday, because I’m even warming up to the idea of easing myself in).

Title: A Crafty Killing

Author: Lorraine Bartlett

When I first read this book in June of last year, I uploaded the following review to my Goodreads account:

“Exactly what you’d expect from a cozy. I had a harder time relating to Katie than I have with other leading ladies of the genre, however.”

I gave it 3/5 stars.

That assessment holds true nearly one year later. Katie may not be my favorite, honestly I don’t remember a thing bout her, but Artisan’s Alley and the Victoria Square, are definitely memorable. Ironically, the victim of the crime had a bit of personality too. I do so enjoy getting to know characters “off screen,” so to speak, in everyone else’s memories of them and zero direct contact. I look forward to reading book two when the mood strikes me because I want to see what happens to the business Katie is building. I have a degree in Entrepreneurship, work retail, and wrote The Bookshop Hotel series, so clearly in regard to fictional businesses, I’m biased.

Title: A Dark and Stormy Murder

Author: Julia Buckley

Despite my 2/5 star rating on A Dark and Stormy Murder, I probably enjoyed my reading experience of Buckley’s work more simply because my boyfriend read it to me while I crocheted my daughter’s comforter set. This book was utterly ridiculous, but the voice of the one reading was so marvelous I was thoroughly amused.

Turning my “old lady” vibe up a notch last year, I didn’t stop at reading cozy mysteries, I taught myself to crochet on youtube and am now a full fledged crochet hobbyist. I’ve begun listening to more audiobooks via Scribd, an app/website that I refer to as Netflix for books: https://www.scribd.com/ga/7adrgu

There is something truly amazing about the monotony of crocheting endless rows for the most ridiculously huge blanket ever. I enjoyed every minute of it. Since then, I have also made hats and scarves and am less than 1/4 through another large project and I cannot recommend learning to crochet enough. It has calmed me during a time when I needed to bask in calm and solace. It has added an extra depth to my pursuit of cozy.

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Robinson Crusoe

April 20, 2019 at 5:08 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

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Title: Robinson Crusoe

Author: Daniel Defoe

The only memory I have of my father reading to me is when he read me Robinson Crusoe. I was ten. I don’t remember why, of all the moments, he chose to read this particular book to me – when I was already reading at a post collegiate level on my own and had been for awhile – when my sister and my mother had previously done most of the read-alouds in our family. Maybe it was good timing with work, maybe he was excited I was interested in it, who knows? Neither of us remembers at this point, twenty-five years later, but what we do know is this: It mattered.

So it was a pretty big deal to me when in February of 2018, I found myself in the car on a cross country road trip to the Creation Museum with my daughter, my dog, both my parents, and began reading Robinson Crusoe out loud in the car.

Robinson Crusoe was first published on April 25th, 1719, and even though we know it to be a novel now in 2019, it still has elements that lead first time readers to believe it to be a true account of a man’s travels. It was mistaken as such during its early release, an intentional marketing ploy by Daniel Defoe, because even in the 1700’s, sensational stories are sold most efficiently if we think they’re real. Look at James Frey and his Million Little Pieces “memoir.”

The first edition of the book touted Robinson Crusoe as both author and protagonist, but now we know that Crusoe is merely a character. In my personal opinion, not even the best character, I have always been most drawn to Friday.

There are many things inherently wrong with Robinson Crusoe if you look at the story from twenty-first century eyes: Robinson Crusoe works hard and then God blesses him to become a king-like fellow. One, that’s just not how God works, and many 1700’s boys and girls were then encouraged to be like Crusoe with this lordship at motivation. Two, it highlights the slave trade, and if you ask most modern Americans they’ll tell you this is a story of white supremacy, white privilege, oppression of all others, etc. etc.

Despite these hang ups, I love it. I think it’s a story that starts conversations. We need to be having conversations with our kids. What makes a protagonist? What makes a hero? What’s right? How do you feel about Crusoe and Friday’s relationship? Do you think this is appropriate? Do you think its duplicatable? Should it be duplicatable?

Kiddo was only seven when we read this together, but I think she got a lot of out of it and it definitely gave us a better view of the 1700’s as we studied all aspects of history. We got to the travel the world through the eyes of an author who lived during the times, and whether his worldview was good or bad, right or wrong, Defoe described it all vividly.

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